Bush Decides Not to Adjust 1990 Census Results

THE JOURNAL RECORD, July 16, 1991 | Go to article overview

Bush Decides Not to Adjust 1990 Census Results


From Staff, Wire Reports WASHINGTON _ The Bush administration Monday decided not to correct the 1990 census that overlooked more than 5 million people _ a decision that will likely cost big cities and states millions of federal dollars over the next decade.

Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher said that to adjust the count would be to "abandon a 200-year tradition of how we actually count people." The government has never jettisoned official census numbers in favor of population estimates in the two centuries that it has been counting Americans.

Monday's decision lets stand Oklahoma City's 1990 census population figure of 444,719, and Oklahoma's 1990 census count of 3,145,585.

A federal court had ordered Mosbacher to decide by Monday whether population estimates were more accurate than the census numbers and should be used instead of the head count.

"Before we take a step of that magnitude, we must be certain it would actually make the census better and the distribution of the population more accurate," Mosbacher said. "After thorough review, I find the evidence inconclusive and unconvincing.

"Therefore I have decided that the 1990 census count should not be changed by statistical adjustment."

The choice was important because the official census numbers are used to determine where billions of dollars in federal money will go and how many representatives each state sends to Congress.

Several big cities and states have vowed to return to federal court to demand the tally be corrected.

By the Census Bureau's own estimate, the census count of 248.7 million is too low by 5.3 million people. Many of those not counted in 1990 were blacks and Hispanics living in large urban areas.

The alternative to the head count is an estimate that comes from a survey of 165,000 households conducted by the government about the time of the census. It is commonly believed that the head count census missed millions of people whose existence was verified in the survey.

Under the alternative, Oklahoma City's population would have been revised upward by 2.3 percent to 455,000, and Oklahoma's count would have risen 2.1 percent to 3,214,000.

Mosbacher's decision was immediately criticized in the jurisdictions that stood to lose the most.

"It could deprive New York of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid as we head into the year 2000," said Robert Abrams, New York state's attorney general.

"California will not get its fair share of federal funding or full delegation of elected representatives in Washington," said Rep. Norman Y.

Mineta, D-Calif. The corrected numbers would have given California an additional seat of Congress.

"I am enraged," said Rep. Ronald D. Coleman, D-Texas, where the estimate said more than a half-million people were missed. "The Republicans have, in effect, told minority voters in the United States `You don't count."'

Cleveland's city planner, Michael Andrezejewski, said his city would lose $1.11 million a year in federal funds because of Mosbacher's decision.

"I think it's absolutely crazy that they're not going" to correct the head count, Andrezejewski said.

New York City in 1988 sued to force the government to correct the census numbers and will press for quick action to reverse Mosbacher's decision.

"We'll go back to court," David Goldin, assistant corporation counsel for the city, said before Mosbacher's announcement. "We'll ask the court to order that the census be corrected."

The estimate found that about 2 percent of the population was missed in the tally taken in April of 1990.

"We counted about 98 percent of all the people living in the United States, an extraordinary feat" considering the diversity and mobility of the population, Mosbacher said.

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., said there was no question the 1990 head count missed people, but trying to use the estimate created too many technical problems. …

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